Michael Jackson, 'Off the Wall' (1979)
Before Off the Wall, both Jones and Michael Jackson were famous and wealthy artists. But that album propelled them into a radically higher orbit. In 1979, disco was facing a misguided backlash that included mass burnings of records, and Off the Wall proved that the style could be whittled down, shorn of its extravagance and reborn. Jones had first worked with the 19-year-old Jackson on The Wiz, and as he recalled in Q, "beneath [Jackson's] shy exterior was an artist with a burning desire for perfection and an unlimited ambition to be the biggest entertainer in the world." He took Jackson, whom he affectionately nicknamed Smelly, under his wing, and he turned his 1979 solo album Off the Wall into the template for post-disco. The disc's many hits, including "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Rock With You," practically created the sound of the Eighties – and it put Jackson on the path to Thriller. "Quincy Jones produced it and we had a ball," Jackson said of Off the Wall in an interview with Blues & Soul. "It was the smoothest album I have ever been involved in. There was so much love, it was incredible. Everybody worked together so easily." That sense of collaborative freedom and joy is abundant in every immortal groove, lick and hook.